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Affordable Housing and Mount Vernon Plaza

"For Ebony, Brown, and Tesfamariam, the expiration of Bush’s tax-credit obligations has meant paying more rent, struggling to get by, and most likely trying to move in a year’s time, when the rent will rise to the full market rate. For some of their neighbors, it meant moving out immediately. In both cases, the previously affordable units were lost forever to the ever-rising demands of the free market."

--from Aaron Wiener, "Why D.C. Is About to Have Even Less Affordable Housing," Washington City Paper 8/6/14

Read the full article describing the organizing efforts of ONE DC members and analyzing DC low-income housing policies here.

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Mount Vernon Plaza Residents Take a Stand!

By Mount Vernon Plaza Tenant Associationmount_vernon.jpg

We are residents of Mount Vernon Plaza. Some of us have lived in Mount Vernon Plaza since the affordability program, the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, began. When we moved in, we were never told that the affordability program would expire this year. We only found out two months before we were asked to either sign a new lease paying up to $600 a month more or move out!

We have families and some of us are on a fixed income. But our backs were up against the wall and many of us felt we had no choice but to sign the new lease. We were shocked to learn that there is no affordability provision after the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit expires. This means thousands and thousands of residents in the District will soon be in the same position that we are in today.

There’s no point in having an affordability program if after it expires residents are forced to be homeless or imprisoned in sky-high rents! But we have ideas about how we can fix this.

First, we need immediate relief now; we need the council or DHCD to start subsidizing the expired LIHTC buildings like Mount Vernon Plaza now. We want subsidy for all of the expired LIHTC units, even the units that were forced to start paying market-rate rent.

IMAG0344.jpgSecond, we need legislation passed that compels tax-credit owners to enforce at least a year notice before any rent increase. But this legislation must also say that any expired LIHTC buildings immediately revert to rent control.

Read More Here & Take Action to Support Mount Vernon Plaza

Please also visit savemuseumsquare.com for more info about the tenant struggle to resist displacement at Museum Square, a sister property of Mount Vernon Plaza.

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Affordable Housing Preserved at Bass Place

Linda Leaks, a ONE DC member and long time DC organizer, is supporting the Bass Place tenants in an effort to purchase their building and convert it into a limited equity cooperative.  University Legal Services and Martha Davis asked ONE DC to provide cooperative housing education and organizing for 5100 Bass Place Tenants Association. The Department of Housing and Community Development signed a commitment letter to approve financing for the tenants to purchase their building.

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Ella Baker's Legacy Continues to Influence Community Leaders

By Nadia Johnson

Being a young president of a tenant association one faces many challenges, such as the people you are fighting for don’t see a reason worth fighting anymore. I was starting to feel like these challenges and many other challenges yet to come was unique to me and vice president Kimberly because of our age and our inexperience of being a part of a tenant association.

However, that was all before we went to a community organizing and leadership development institute in Chicago. Not only did we discover that there are many people who are going through the same struggle we are going through when it comes to public housing and organizing tenants, but that it is a struggle that crosses racial, sexual orientation, class, religion, and educational borders. We also saw how there are so many young people who are fighting for the same beliefs and principles that we are fighting for and that was refreshing to both see and hear. What was the name of this great leadership conference where we got all this new inspiration from? Well, if you really want to know, it was the Ella Baker Institute.

ONE DC members & other EBI participants visit local Chicago muralist Hector DuarteONE DC members & other EBI participants visit local Chicago muralist Hector Duarte.

Ella Baker founded an organization called the Student Nonviolent Coordination Committee (SNCC) which was a civil rights organization that combated racial inequality during the 1960s. In developing SNCC, Ella decided that this organization should hit two fronts-- direct action and voter registration. Ella believed in "participatory democracy,” meaning each person should get involved individually and have a voice in the organization. She also argued that "people under the heel," referring to the most oppressed sectors of any community, "had to be the ones to decide what action they were going to take to get (out) from under their oppression.”

In learning this at the retreat, I have decided to take the Heritage at Shaw Station Tenant Association into a different direction. This direction is going to be broken down into two pieces: direct action by the tenant association and the tenants; and to have every tenant on the property, both new and old, to see their place in this fight and to commit fully to participating.

All in all, I am glad that we attended this retreat about leadership. I not only learned about Ella Baker, but I also got to see the sights of Chicago and be revived spiritually, emotionally, and mentally by the culture of Chicago, the common sisterhood and brotherhood of other leaders in the struggle, and the wonderful and inspirational poetry that we heard. It is my hope that along with vice president Kimberly, we can take the necessary steps forward and bring the tenant association into new heights.

For more info about Heritage at Shaw Station, formerly Lincoln Westmoreland II, click here

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ONE DC Members Attend Ella Baker Institute in Chicago

By Nkechi Feaster

I became an advocate, not because of my idealistic heart and character; but because I saw how the low income community was highly discriminated against in DC. Stereotyped, held back, dismissed, and diminished further than just being black, or single parents, or low-income. It was tragic. Speaking out against the wrongs against my community was easy for me. I have learned how to channel the voice my mother always said I used too much growing up to speak against these wrongs, so advocacy came easy for me.

Organizing, I found, was a different breed of the same fight, however. I had to learn to quiet my own voice and help others either find theirs, learn how to use theirs, or give them the proper avenue to use it. I had to learn to build my political analysis, learn the lingo of the field, and learn how to fight the good fight. And I am still learning.

I started learning with ONE DC as an organizer. ONE DC, in my opinion, gains much respect from me for not only fighting the good fight, but HOW they fight it! They put the needs of the community above all else, to the point that it’s not until they go out to hear the voices in the community that they even design their campaigns and fights. A community-based organization that is actually about the community!

So when ONE DC asked me if I was interested in going to Chicago to attend the Ella Baker Institute’s Training, I jumped at the opportunity. I was always interested in visiting Chicago, but only during one of the few warm months of the year, so even the timing was perfect and it ended up being the best trip I have taken thus far!

I, along with a staff member of ONE DC and the president and vice president of the Heritage at Shaw Station Tenant Association that is supported by ONE DC, landed on a Thursday afternoon. Since training didn’t start until the next day, we got the opportunity to see a little bit of the city. We were able to attend the Taste of Chicago, sample some of the city’s delicacies and even see Janelle Monae perform! As a lover of music and a fan, I wasn’t able to stop dancing the whole time! It was the perfect opening to the next 5 days.

The very first day of training, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I came in simply ready to learn. I ended up being deeply inspired by Climbing PoeTree; a social justice poetry group that was selected to open the training. As a writer and poet, this touched me in more than one way. Climbing Poetree not only put beautiful words to the fight that we all were fighting, but also served as a muse to everyone in the room to keep on fighting.

The next 5 days were filled with speakers on many social justice issues; from racism to feminism; from colonialism to reparations. We even had the honor of hearing from two women from Palestine speak on the tragedies that have been going on in their homeland. There was so much information to cover that even two weeks after the trip, I am still neck deep in research and reading. I wasn’t expecting to get answers on how to end the fight for justice, but I did not expect to get so much information on those who have already been fighting.

I was also able to see a lot of the culture of the city. We were able to go on a mural tour of the Pilsen neighborhood and even meet one of the artists. We were able to visit a phenomenal open mic, which again, as a writer touched the creative side of me. We were able to go to the top of the former Sears Tower and get a view of the beauty of the city as a whole.

The entire trip was beautiful and spoke to many different sides of me. The nerd in me was filled with information. The creative talent in me was inspired by murals, paintings and poetry. The organizer I am becoming was given inspiration to keep going and do it better. I am so happy to have been given an opportunity such as this!

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Good Jobs Nation Rally and Press Conference

Join OUR DC and Good Jobs Nation at a rally and press conference tomorrow to highlight the plight of low-wage federal contract workers who are calling on the President to do more than the minimum, and issue a Good Jobs Executive Order (read about it in the Washington Post).  

TUESDAY, JULY 29 at 9am, UNION STATION

Hundreds of Good Jobs Nation workers will gather to declare that the President’s $10.10 Executive Order is a great first step, but it's not enough to lift them out of poverty.   These workers need more than the minimum – they need a Good Jobs Executive Order that makes sure federal contractors respect collective bargaining rights, pay living wages and benefits, stop wage theft, and don’t pay CEOs excessive salaries.

WHAT:  Press Conference for Low-Wage Contract Workers

WHO:  Low-wage federal contract workers, Sr. Simone Campbell, Members of Congress

WHEN: 9am on Tuesday, July 29th

WHERE:  Columbus Circle, in front of Union Station

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Equitable Development Moves Forward in the Nation’s Capital

Written by GREGORY D. SQUIRES, DOMINIC T. MOULDEN AND KALFANI N. TURE

"Angela Glover Blackwell set the tone in her keynote address when she called for a new national narrative on community development; one based on current demographic and economic realities, not just morality. [...] Recognizing the continuing racial and class segregation of cities she focused a laser on the significance of place in shaping the nation’s opportunity structure. She reminded the group how neighborhood determines [...] virtually all aspects of the quality of life, including life expectancy itself."

For the full article, click here.

The second annual Equitable Development Symposium will take place March 26, 2015.

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Our Streets: An Exhibition of Collected Stories

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July Right to Income Meeting

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Save Museum Square!

Check out the blog of a movement trying to save Museum Square, a building whose demolition would displace low-income Chinese residents in China town.

http://savemuseumsquare.com/

From the blog:

"In early June of this year, tenants of Museum Square, a 302-unit Section 8 affordable apartment building in Chinatown, received a notice which revealed the owner’s plans to demolish the building. Tenants were told that they can only save their homes if they can raise $250 million to buy the building. [...] That price works out to just over $827,800 per unit; a completely unrealistic price for this building which is 7 times higher than the $36 million assessed value of the property. [...]

Museum Square represents one of two buildings still home to low-income tenants in this area of the city, and 302 rental units that are at risk of being permanently lost from DC’s stock of affordable housing. And ironically this future development seeks to demolish a building that currently houses the majority of the Chinese residents left in that neighborhood, ultimately so that disproportionately white and higher income people can live in Chinatown. Tenants are working tirelessly to fight for the preservation of their homes and the affordability of this building by any means available."

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